KINGSPORT, Tenn. (Aug. 9) By Robert Walden — Ben Rhodes of Louisville, Ky., was named the first week in June as one of NASCAR’s rising young stars by the NASCAR Selection Committee, becoming part of the NASCAR Next program for 2013-2014.
NASCAR Next is an industry initiative to help spotlight young NASCAR talent, and it demonstrates NASCAR’s commitment to the future of the sport by identifying young drivers to help shape and mold them to carry the sport in years to come.
The 16-year-old Rhodes will begin his junior year of high school next week back in the Bluegrass State. On Precision Electrical Company Night at the Races Friday at Kingsport Speedway, he aced his first test with flying colors as he captured his first-ever NASCAR Whelen All American Series “Dalton Direct Carpets” Late Model Stock feature win.
With a stellar field of 22 Late Model Stocks present Zeke Shell set fast-time at 15.157 seconds, and Rhodes was second quickest just behind Shell at 15.158. Following the invert of the top four from qualifying, Ronnie McCarty led the field to green from the pole position with divisional points leader Chad Finchum on the outside of row one.
Finchum grabbed the lead over McCarty, Shell, Rhodes and Hayden Woods at start of the 60-lap main event. But Rhodes was on the move early, getting around Shell for third racing off the fourth turn on lap 3. Racing up off (turn) two on lap 5, Ryan Stiltner passed Woods for the fifth spot.
With Finchum showing the way out front, Rhodes began pressuring McCarty for second. Racing off the second corner on lap 13, Rhodes got around McCarty for the position and set his sights ahead on leader Finchum. McCarty also began feeling heat from Shell for the third spot, with Shell making the pass racing off the fourth turn on lap 21.
Caution waved on lap 22 when Jamie Harrison spun at end of the front straightaway.
The double-file restart had Finchum and Rhodes on the front row, with Shell and McCarty behind them in the second row. Finchum moved back out ahead with waving of the green flag, but Rhodes was glued to his rear bumper.
Racing into the first turn on lap 29, Rhodes muscled his way to the inside of Finchum between turns one and two. At end of the backstretch entering the third turn, Rhodes passed Finchum and moved to the point. Racing off turn two on lap 34, Stiltner passed McCarty for fourth in the running order. Just one circuit later, caution waved when Justin Wright spun between turns one and two.
With Finchum looking at the big picture, leading the track’s Late Model Stock point standings and hoping to win a championship with only two weekends of racing remaining in the 2013 season, he needed to race smart and not take any risky chances mixing it up with Rhodes. But instead of racing hard with Rhodes, Finchum found himself in a battle for position with Shell, his closest challenger in the points chase.
Out front the race belonged to Rhodes, who recorded his first victory at “The Concrete Jungle.” Finchum held Shell off for the runner-up position, while both Stiltner and Woods had strong runs to finish fourth and fifth, respectively.
Completing the top 10 finishers were Lee Tissot, McCarty, Daniel Pope II, Paul Nogradi Jr. and Tyler Goodwin.
Rob Austin, Nick Cole and John Harrell entered the night of racing locked in a tight Street Stock points battle, separated by only three points. Harrell was quickest in qualifying, but following the invert he started from the second row.
Alan Rich jumped out into the lead over Cole and Chris Tunnell. Harrell got around Tunnell to move into the third spot on lap 5. With Rich showing the way out front, Harrell began pressuring Cole for second. Racing into the first turn on lap 15, Harrell got into the back of Cole, sending Cole spinning with Harrell also looping his ride to bring out the caution.
Back under green for six laps, Cole and Royce Peters tangled in the fourth turn on lap 21 to bring out the caution. With lightning streaking across the nighttime skies and the roar of thunder getting everyone’s attention, the race restarted. Immediately huge raindrops began falling, which quickly turned into a downpour and the race ended on lap 22 with Rich getting the win over Tunnell, Harrell, Jared Broadbent and Cole.
Kenny Absher passed Dylan Bates for the lead just four laps into the 25-lap Pure 4 feature, and stayed out front until being overtaken just five circuits from the finish by track point leader and also NASCAR Finalist Program Division III national point leader John Ketron of Kingsport. John Ketron went on to capture his ninth Pure 4 victory over Absher, Chris Neeley, Tim Abelseth and Billy Ketron.
Brandon Byington of Kingsport got around Billy Taylor for the lead following a halfway restart and never looked back en route to winning his fourth Rookie Pure 4 feature. Byington was chased to the checkers by Taylor, Billy Byington, Jon Pittman and Matt Baker.
Kingsport’s Trey Lane made it two in a row by winning his second consecutive Legend feature over Derek Lane, Jerry Lane, Matt Smith and Hayden Ottinger.
NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES “DALTON DIRECT CARPETS” LATE MODEL STOCK (60 laps)
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car Number, Hometown, Laps Completed In Parentheses
1. (3) Ben Rhodes #41-Louisville, KY (60)
2. (2) Chad Finchum #19-Knoxville, TN (60)
3. (4) Zeke Shell #97-Johnson City, TN (60)
4. (5) Ryan Stiltner #22-Grundy, VA (60)
5. (6) Hayden Woods #87-Piney Flats, TN (60)
6. (10) Lee Tissot #7-Asheville, NC (60)
7. (1) Ronnie McCarty #5-Kingsport, TN (60)
8. (9) Daniel Pope II #16-Smyrna, TN (60)
9. (7) Paul Nogradi Jr. #02-Clinton, TN (60)
10. (13) Tyler Goodwin #64-Kingsport, TN (60)
11. (15) Royce Peters #38-Kingsport, TN (60)
12. (22) Wayne Hale #19-Bluff City, TN (60)
13. (12) Austin Peters #66-Kingsport, TN (60)
14. (16) Allen Hawkins #14-Kingsport, TN (60)
15. (18) Mike Potter #8-Johnson City, TN (60)
16. (17) Rick Pannell #33-Kingsport, TN (60)
17. (20) Jamie Harrison #76-Church Hill, TN (58)
18. (14) Joey Trent #26-Gray, TN (54)
19. (11) Roger Powell #21-Waynesville, NC (44)
20. (8) Kres VanDyke #15-Claypool Hill, VA (41)
21. (19) Justin Wright #21-Kingsport, TN (35)
22. (20) Dean Barrett #82-Abingdon, VA (9)
STREET STOCK (30 laps)
1) Alan Rich #03; 2) Chris Tunnell #6; 3) John Harrell #19; 4) Jared Broadbent #74; 5) Nick Cole #63; 6) Rob Austin #25; 7) Royce Peters #48; 8) Sam Hurd #11
PURE 4 (25 laps)
1) John Ketron #26; 2) Kenny Absher #11; 3) Chris Neeley #94; 4) Tim Abelseth #96; 5) Billy Ketron #27; 6) Dylan Bates #6; 7) Jimmy Hillard #74; 8) Lloyd Baker #7; 9) Jason Ketron #28; 10) Andrew Hill #97; 11) David Trent #57; 12) Dennis Deese #25; 13) #R2; 14) Keith Helton #9; 15) Todd Cross #41 – Did Not Start: Brandon Sutherland #22
ROOKIE PURE 4 (17 laps)
1) Brandon Byington #1; 2) Billy Taylor #75; 3) Billy Byington #11; 4) Jon Pittman #96; 5) Matt Baker #7; 6) Chris Steadman #14; 7) Andrew Hill #97; 8) #R2; 9) Dennis Deese #25; 10) #33; 11) Brandon Crumbley #7; 12) Derrick Gilliam #34; 13) #02; 14) Sam Manis II #06; 15) Tammy Cross #41; 16) Mook Jeter #53
LEGEND (15 laps)
1) Trey Lane #28; 2) Derek Lane #19; 3) Jerry Lane #9; 4) Matt Smith #33; 5) Hayden Ottinger #94
PHOTO COURTESY: Randall Perry